Christina Chung, an assistant professor at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation Computer and Information Science and Engineering Research Initiation Initiative worth nearly $175,000 to study how to best use communication about eating and health among the elderly as a basis for promoting connectedness and well-being.
The proposal, “Promoting Connectedness and Wellbeing through Healthful Eating,” aims to connect older adults living alone with their support circle through conversations about the experience of eating and food preparation. Eating and food preparation are essentially social activities—it involves planning, purchasing food, cooking, and the actual eating—but when an older adult lives alone, many of those social aspects, such as preparing a healthy meal, may fall by the wayside. Chung hopes to create designs to supplement and encourage older adults to share and exchange personal experiences and stories with support groups to rebuild that feeling of being connected.
“As an early career researcher, I’m very grateful for the support from NSF,” Chung said. “This award supports me to expand on my research interests of and expertise in designing personal informatics and ubiquitous computing systems to support health, wellness, and relationships.”
Current healthy eating management systems tend to focus on calorie counting or weight-loss strategies, and they don’t address the valuable social aspects of eating. They also overlook the ability to share experiences of ever-changing family relationships in regard to wellbeing. Chung hopes to engage older adults and their support circle with everyday health activities while empowering them to exchange knowledge of health practices and improve awareness of health and wellbeing.
“My students and I are currently conducting participatory design sessions with participants from Indiana and across the nation,” Chung said. “These design sessions surface people’s values, experiences, and expectations of healthy eating individually and among family members. Through iterative research and the design process, we plan to create, deploy, and evaluate system designs in field studies with elderly parents and their support circles in the second year.”
The CRII award will allow Chung to partner with the Center for Rural Engagement, the Center of Excellence for Women & Technology, and the ProHealth REU site to engage and support local communities with human-centered design approaches as well as to involve and mentor students with diverse backgrounds in computing research. The CRII program seeks to provide essential resources to enable early career PIs to launch their research careers.
“Using technology to improve the way humans live their lives is one of the main goals of the Luddy School,” said Kay Connelly, the associate dean of research for the Luddy School. “Christina’s work is the perfect example of the innovative ways our researchers can make an impact in the real world, and this award is a tangible sign of the importance of her work.”